Bull Shoals Dam is pumping steady at 22,000-23,000cfs of deep, fast, cold, green water. The fish are tricky to access in these flows – the depth and speed of the water make it difficult to get decent presentations in most places – but the fish are still where they always are, doing what they normally do; they’re just a bit hard to reach and sometimes not fooled even when you reach them. That’s just an honest assessment of current conditions, but stay with me now, don’t get downhearted just yet.
Language like “tricky….difficult….hard” might give the impression of bad fishing, but that’s simply not the case. While there is certainly some struggling to be done in the pursuit of trophy trout on a fly in these conditions, a quick scroll through these photos from the week will serve as a reminder that when it comes to quality fish, a bit of struggle here and there just sweetens the flavor. Anglers are forced to adapt in difficult conditions, whether it’s as simple as tweaking the retrieve of a streamer or as drastic as changing strategies entirely and incorporating the dead drift. In either case, making the adjustment not only adds to the anglers’ bag of tricks, but also increases the enjoyment of solving the fish puzzle. Exposure to difficult fishing conditions creates better, smarter, more satisfied anglers.
A big thank you is owed to the fine gentlemen from Massachusetts based Concord Outfitters, for four full days of high quality entertainment. These boys didn’t let cold nor wind nor picky fish get in the way of their fun. And fun they had. They fished with gratitude and open mindedness, made adjustments to their skills and tried some things they’d never tried before. And they caught some damn nice trout.
In the streamer department, try Galloup’s Bangtail, Lafkas’ Super Cougar, Johnson’s Sluggo, Dally’s Twerking Minnow. Make sure you are stripping these large flies on a fast sinking line. A lot of anglers are improving their presentation in this big fast water simply by jumping up to a 330, 350, or even 400 grain sink tip fly line such as the Rio Striper 350gr. Alternatively, using a floating line while dead drifting small white streamers like AR Beadheads, Meat Whistles, DW Threadfins under a bobber can be deadly at times. Yes, I said “streamer” and “bobber” in the same sentence. Yes, you can do that.